For Approval: MindTree Public License

Ben Tilly btilly at
Sat Oct 15 19:05:50 UTC 2005

On 10/15/05, Michael Bernstein <webmaven at> wrote:
> On Thu, 2005-10-13 at 16:05 -0700, Smith, McCoy wrote:
> > Is there any OSI-approved license with mandatory grant-back provisions
> > of the scope set forth in paragraphs 3 & 4?  Is it appropriate under
> > prevailing law and the OSD to demand a grant back is to IP beyond
> > copyright, when the grant itself is limited to copyright only?
> I'll point out again that the MTPL does not demand a grant, but an
> outright assignment of all IP.

Can you actually DO that in a copyright license?

> That means the author of a distributed modification loses all copyright
> to their modification, any necessary patents, etc. MindTree gets it all
> (ignoring for the moment that assignments must usually be executed
> explicitly).

Let's not ignore that.  Suppose that a judge didn't agree with the,
"MindTree owns it all" bit.  Would the derived modification now be
undistributable?  That is, is it possible that a court judgement would
leave MTPL licensed software in violation of OSD #3?

> In return, MindTree only grants a license to use and distribute the
> modification back to the modifying author, but they do not grant any
> patent licenses back.
> Can anyone else not see the problems with this?

I can see plenty of problems with this.  I'm having more trouble
seeing how this violates the OSD.  My feeling is that that the OSD
should be clearer on this.

Perhaps the IP assignment can be seen as a violation of #7?  In order
to gain the right to make derived works, you must execute an
additional license (more specifically you must execute a copyright
assignment and then get the license to the modified work).  However is
the right to make derived works a right attached to the program?

This would be clearer to me if #7 read:

   The rights in this definition must apply to all to whom the
   program is redistributed without the need for execution of an
   additional license by those parties.

That might be a good change in general.

The other place that I looked was #3, but on the surface it doesn't
seem to violate that.  #3 says only that you must allow derived works,
but nothing about what hoops you may put people through to create

So while I strongly DISLIKE this license, and think that it SHOULD NOT
satisfy the OSD, I'm having some trouble proving to myself that it
doesn't.  (Hence my hope that someone will say that the IP assignment
provisions are legally unworkable.)


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